The weather was gray and calm as I walked on the sidewalks of my old neighborhood of beige and brown track homes. It felt like a mid-Autumn morning, the trees and shrubs hybrids of rusty oranges and mossy, damp greens. I was on my way back to my house, down the familiar street, but I did not want to go back yet. I felt antsy and lonely, uneasy and curious in regards to the surrounding houses. Their Halloween and harvest decorations thickened the atmosphere of Autumn. I knelt down on the curb to enjoy a cigarette while entertaining the idea of exploring a house or two before I returned to mine.
There was a brown house, two-story with a small porch accented with a rectangular column, uncarved pumpkins and boughs of hay. A lack of windows prevented me from viewing the interior, so I only could wonder what it looked like inside. The entire concept of row upon row of homes started to churn in my head. Countless back yards, tended to or trashed, square plots of unappreciated land filled with concrete, bark, sod and spas. How many families lived in the same model house that I inhabited? How many people had died in its eternally repeated floor plan?
As I contemplated, I heard shuffling behind the front door. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, I flipped through memorized excuses in my brain and prepared to ask to use the phone. This question would get me out of looking like an unexceptional voyeur as it would also allow me to see the inner confines of this brown home. Raising my hand to knock on the door, I still felt cold and uneasy. A man in his mid-thirties answered the door. He was tall - 6'4", 6'5" - muscular yet thin. He wore a black long sleeved shirt with black pants to match his short cleanly cut black hair which was accented with hints of gray and silver. His five o'clock shadow had the same silver sheen of his hair. I felt nervous due to this man's handsome appearance and inquisitive expression. I had expected a housewife wearing yellow dish washing gloves or an overweight football fan who had just woken up, not a thin strapping hottie looking at me with crystal blue-gray eyes.
Before I succumbed to the urge to run away, I was able to stammer that I was lost and I needed to call my friend for directions. He smiled, said "of course," and led me to the family room while excusing the mess. The home was warm inside and it had the feeling of a chocolate brown blanket that wrapped around the body. Bright plastic toys laid around on the hardwood floors, upon the brick fireplace, amidst the magazines and remote controls. Two young boys sat on the dark rug playing with action figures and airplanes. They wore horizontally striped knit shirts with jeans and their bright blue eyes jumped out from under their messy strawberry blond manes. They looked about six and eight years old, give or take a year. As they said hello to me, their father handed me a cordless phone. I moved into the hallway, called my own phone number and left a bunk message. The boys had followed me and insisted that I check out their play room. The room was poorly lit but this was compensated by the multitude of vivid Fisher-Price kiddy kitchens, playhouses and mini slides that occupied the space. All of these toys were the objects of every child's desire, at least those of us born in the 70's and 80's.
Since I had come here to see what this home housed, I accepted when the boys asked me to play house with them. One of them put on an apron and served me up some plastic eggs and bacon. The older boy begged me to watch him tumble down the orange plastic slide while he sang Elvis songs. I hung out with these kids for about a half an hour before realizing that their dad was watching us from the doorway. Suddenly I felt intrusive and told the boys that I had to leave soon. I gave them hugs and they continued playing as I handed the phone back to their father.
He smiled at me with honest unflinching eyes and told me I was amazing with the kids as he folded laundry. I sat down on the beige leather couch. We talked over the muffled television programs for quite some time about the nature of children, art, relationships. He talked about his wife in a confused unsettled manner. Unsure about her feelings for him and their children, he felt boggled as to why she had settled down with him in this homey lifestyle. I expressed my views on relationships, how I felt they were forged by connection, honesty, respect and hard work. It seemed we sat on those beige couches talking and folding laundry for hours, even though the deep cozy light in the room never changed.
Although we did not want to end our talk, he explained to me that his wife was on her way and she would come to the wrong conclusion if she found me hanging out with her husband. I understood, but hesitantly stood up to make my way to the front door. Before I left the family room, he told me how I had amazed him with my openness and honesty. He wanted to see me again but could not due to his marital problems. I gave him good wishes and extended my hand to shake his but he put his arms around my waist and hugged me close to his body. He was strong and muscular but warm and soft, and I wanted to squeeze the feeling he gave me into a small glass bottle to carry with me always. I grabbed his shoulder blades and rubbed my face up past his neck, nuzzling my cheek into his soft silver stubble. I kissed his cheek and then he brushed my lips with his.
I then left the house out into the gray Autumn day. I closed the door behind me, no longer uneasy, but clear and aware. I realized that these rows upon rows of houses could never just be suburban filler to me again. Each one carried life inside of it. However insignificant these places may have been, I still had mine to go to at the end of the block and I headed that way to my warm beige domicile, a speck in the world of stars and shingles.